No deal between Rudd and Telstra:

Dr Tony Warren, Telstra’s Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs, writes: Re. “Has Rudd already done a deal with Telstra?” (Yesterday, item 10). Margaret Simons’ article makes a number of false claims that must be corrected. For over two years, Telstra has stood ready to build a high-speed broadband network. We have made it very clear from the beginning that this would be a totally open access network, meaning that all other providers will have the same access on the same terms and conditions as Telstra’s own retail arm. Suggestions that network separation will somehow facilitate investment in high-speed broadband are completely at odds with overseas experience. In fact, in the UK where BT is split in three, an inquiry has just commenced into why investment in high-speed broadband has stalled in that country. Finally, the idea that a “deal” has been done between Telstra and the new government, is totally without foundation. On the contrary, we look forward to working with the new government in the hope we can quickly provide Australians with the high speed broadband services that other countries are now taking for granted and that we had hoped to roll out two years ago.

Leave Therese Rein alone:

Philip Woods writes: Re. “How much did the Rudds pocket from selling their business?” (Yesterday, item 1). Hell Stephen Mayne, Rudd is not even sworn in as PM and you are suggesting he has dropped the ball. Where was your moral outrage when Santoro et al were caught with their hand in the cookie barrel up beyond the elbow? Are you trying to bank a few far-right brownie points for a tilt at Higgins again next time? Ingeus was sold principally to remove a potential wedge issue for the now ex spin-meister; there was no conflict of interest at that time because Rudd held no position that could influence a purchasing decision in his favour. Importantly, Therese Rein owning a business does not mean that she can’t win government business ever again. All that is called for is openness and transparency in any tender process. If Ingeus can deliver the best solution at the best price for a publicly offered tender, and the decision making is objective and transparent then that is the best thing for the tax payer. And any money that she or her Trusts made in the sale of businesses is absolutely none of yours or any other media hack’s business – ever.

Steve Martin writes: Maybe I am missing something here: “How much did the Rudds…” The business was Rudd’s wife surely so why the plural? This is not the nineteenth century when a wife’s property was the property of the husband. What Mrs Rudd received for the sale of her business is her business and the ATO’s business and no one else’s. As far as ongoing contracts; this is irrelevant as the contracts were written during the tenure of the previous government, which would surely not have shown any partiality to Mrs Rudd.

Steve Johnson writes: Stephen Mayne raises interesting points in his comments. His assertions, though, touch on the melodramatic. Rudd’s core experiences derive from academic pursuits in Chinese language and culture, government service, and family life. Rein’s business building and family raising experience is a rare and valuable compendium to the partnership. I really wonder whether the same alarm would be generated over a husband’s career and business should a married woman become PM. It would be a great loss to public life if strong, successful partners are forced to sacrifice their careers or businesses due to overly intrusive disclosure laws.

Bruce Armstrong writes: It’s depressing when people like Stephen Mayne have a go at people like Therese Rein. Can’t a woman be successful and independent of her husband’s life without naysayers trying to prevent her from fulfilling her dream? Gee, it’s only four days and already you are trying to stuff things up.

Anne Coulthurst writes: If Denis Thatcher was able to conduct and continue his business when Maggie became PM, why can’t Therese Rein do likewise? Rudd’s money or Therese’s businesses are no concern of ours, unless illegality is involved.

Leave Peter Costello alone:

John Harry writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. It says something about my rapid addiction to Crikey that I should be weighing in for the first time on my BlackBerry from China. I’m sick of the stream of “Peter Costello’s a liar, hypocrite, scoundrel, coward for passing on opposition leader” comment in the press and in Crikey. Now your editorial accuses him of abusing his family for what? Saying he wants more time with them? This is just plain getting the boots into the bloke when he’s down. And all Crikey lovers should hope it isn’t the edge of a very biased skirt showing. Yes, he’s got his hands dirty with the former member for Bennelong. Yes, he’s cold and arrogant. Yes, just maybe, he would have knocked Howard off if he’d gone to the back bench (but it would have been hard for anyone listening to the dim coalition herd that wanted the PM to stay, to believe he had a shot.) Yes, he probably had many unspoken reasons to bale including the fact that he has virtually nothing to show financially for 15 backbreaking years in the toughest show there is. But is it reasonable comment or in the spirit of fair go to pillory a man who has done nothing but work his ar-e off for his country and in an outstanding manner just because he’s had enough? Can anyone seriously suggest that even Peter really knows why he’s exiting or that he has any obligation to do more in public life? It’s just mean, and what good can it possibly serve? If the press is now to be promoted to the august role of shadow opposition (as Stephen Mayne wrote yesterday) then it had better avoid the kind of gratuitous and undeserved slagging that this material represents. Give the bloke some praise and thanks for doing vastly more that any of us for the betterment of the country and stop printing comment that really will injure his family.

Shlomo Geva writes: This style of argument is straight from the IDA100 lecture notes – Introduction to Deceptive Arguments. The initial sets of facts that are described are true, and serve as bait. The reader can see that it is true and drops his/her guard. Indeed, both Costello and Vaile are out of government following the election and both have stated family reasons for activating the eject booster seat. Crikey then proceeds with a plausible and likely conjecture – they would have reached a different decision had they won the election. Dah! So now that the reader is comfortable with Crikey’s line of argument it is time to slip in the fallacy. The fallacy is that this is hypocrisy. The fallacy is based on the un-stated and totally false assumption that the question decided upon, regardless of a win or a loss, is “Shall I stay in politics or go back to my family?” But of course a win/loss changes the question drastically. For Costello the question given a win is “Do I stay on and become Prime Minister of Australia or do I put my family first?” In case of a loss the question is “Do I stay in opposition and waste my talents to fight the inevitable or do I put my family first?” The questions are so drastically different that of course they lead to different answers. The hypocrisy argument is thus deconstructed.

David Hand writes: Once again your headline editorial displays a spiteful, gratuitous personal attack on political figures of the day. It is understandable that having been fired by the electorate, cabinet ministers might re-assess their priorities and turn to those who have given them unswerving support over a lot of years. To label this as hypocrisy says more about you than them and it’s not a good look. Even Kevin and Julia have managed to be gracious in victory and they have been in the heat of the battle. You have been merely sniping from the safety of an anonymous media bunker so maybe you could grow up a bit and say something thought provoking, newsy or relevant. After all, that’s what attracts me to Crikey.

Pattie Tancred writes: I recall a particularly interesting instance: that of Michael Ronaldson, who departed the House of Reps in 2001 with these words (from an AM interview given at the time): “I’ve asked an enormous amount of my wife and the kids over the last eleven-and-a-half years, and I think it’s time I gave them something back. It’s been a great honour, this job. I think, apart from having children, it’s probably the greatest honour I’ve had. But it’s time to give my family some time back as well.” Well, he gave them about four years because he was back in parliament, in the Senate, in 2005. Could these uxorious and familial types be the subject of another Crikey list?

Peter Smith writes: Regarding politicians spending more time with their families. Were the families consulted?

GM crops: editor Nick Evans writes: Re. “Lifting the lid on GM crops: what is Brumby hiding?” (Yesterday, item 9). First the anti-wireless mob and now Katherine Wilson on GM crops – I really hope Crikey isn’t becoming the natural home of the hysterical anti-technology mob. Wilson quotes a number of surveys and public polls showing an anti-GM bias, which is a touch out of order, in my opinion. Having spent the last 10 years whipping up hysteria about the alleged dangers of genetic modification, it’s a bit rich for Wilson and her mates to now say they shouldn’t be allowed because people are scared of them! Of course, anti-GM campaigners need to stick to relaying opinion and polling data, because they’re a bit short of the only thing that would present a real argument against allowing rigorously tested and regulated GM canola into Australian fields – actual evidence that the crop would present any real threat to the environment or human health in this country.

Ignaz Amrein writes: Brumby is Premier only a few months and he already acts like Howard did after eleven years. Lifting the ban on GM crops is the dumbest thing happening in Australia since Kevin Andrews was made a Minister in the (thank God it’s gone) Howard government. Is Brumby going to make a law to stop birds from spreading GM seeds and allowing bees not to carry pollen to non GM crops? This man has lost the plot and certainly doesn’t represent the people of Victoria.

Howard’s failings:

Holger Lubotzki writes: Re. “Abjorensen: Howard’s failing was that he did not really know us” (yesterday, item 18). I think Abjorensen, despite being one of your more reasoned and measured correspondents, has Howard all wrong. Howard was always motivated by the pursuit of power and abandoned any and all standards or ethics to obtain and hold the peak position of power in this country. He was ready to lie, obfuscate, and assume questionable moral positions in his quest to win votes and hold power. The Tampa, the Children Overboard, his refusal to unconditionally condemn all those involved in the Cronulla Riots, the Indigenous apology, and the Intervention, were all aimed at the securing the vote of the base and ignorant underbelly of society that exists everywhere. Howard’s mistake was the hubris that led him to implement WorkChoices once he had a Senate Majority. Howard simply could not see that that the ignorant and uninformed, given the choice between copping a raw deal under WorkChoices or having Sudanese refugees arriving on the Tampa after throwing their children overboard, would vote for their own personal income security over “border security”. It’s that simple. And the November interest rate rise was just another brick in the wall.

Diplomatic posts:

James Holyoake writes: Re. “Bomber for GG and other rumeurs diplomatique” (yesterday, item 16). Barry Everingham may have perhaps unwittingly dug a deeper hole for his DFAT mole. Ambassador Amanda “since she lumbered into the post … hasn’t found it necessary to file a political report, one of the main jobs of any ambassador”. Which begs the question: would it really matter if her predecessors hadn’t filed any either? Perhaps we need to turn it around and reduce these “sinecure” posts to a junior diplomat to prepare the underwhelming reports and a couple of consular officers for overwhelmed Australian tourists. Transfer all the millions saved to such understaffed DFAT areas as climate change and hey presto! No empire-building needed. Hello, razor gang?

Doug Clark writes: Whilst I enjoyed Barry’s latest rumeurs diplomatiques, even my colleagues at Bletchley Park couldn’t decipher all the tricky codes. Please supply glossary.

Peter Garrett:

Andrew McMillan writes: Re. “Ears are burning: Garrett to get black job?” (Yesterday, item 14). Graham Ring’s item requires a correction. The 1986 Midnight Oil/Warumpi Band tour through the NT outback, which Pete Garrett erroneously referred to as the Diesel & Dust tour in his maiden speech, was in fact the Blackfella-Whitefella tour. It was the subject of my first book Strict Rules. Diesel & Dust was the Blackfella-Whitefella inspired album that came out a year later.

Ernie Biscan writes: Thank you Crikey. Seeing Christine Milne call someone else a lightweight had me laughing for the rest of the day.

Kevin help us:

Ben McAlary writes: Re. “Don’t forget 39 Labor MPs didn’t want Kevin Rudd” (Tuesday, item 18). Alex Mitchell wrote: “They can be easily identified as they crawl around the new prime minister and suck up to him in the most appalling fashion…” Alex Mitchell you’re not wrong! Only one day after this article was written Tanya Plibersek’s effort in the SMH ought to be congratulated. It is exceptional, not only does she compare the Prime Minister elect to share the same social conscious as Jimmy Carter but also implies that the new leader enjoys the same astute judgment and direction as the late JFK. Go to the front of the class Ms Plibersek! (Or should that be bench?)

Pass the source: 

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “ABC dinnergate verdict is in: please pass the source” (yesterday, item 2). People talk too much in shades of grey when talking about journalistic confidentiality. Refusal to reveal a source is gossipy. How about this for black and white? Supposing I told a journalist, “Now that we’ve agreed that this conversation is off the record, I want to get something off my chest: I witnessed a murder last night, and here are the details”, then there is no doubt that they would ‘breach confidentiality’ and report my name and what I said to the police. I believe there is no reason why this extreme example should not be applied to lesser revelations: the journalist should aim to report everything that they come across that is newsworthy, and they should identify the source if possible. The source has the opportunity to conceal their identity from the journalist by numerous means if they wish.


Jon Jenkins writes: Re. “State of the planet” (yesterday, item 23). Even though I am a subscriber to Crikey (and have been almost since its inception), I often lose faith in its independence and balanced nature. The sole basis for the current hysteria over is the belief that there is consensus in the scientific community with regard to climate change. As a scientist who is in touch with many people who have been intimately involved with the IPCC process I can tell you that this is simply not true. In fact the science against an anthropogenic cause of the current global warming is becoming stronger and stronger.


Peter Hill, Technical Editor of the Australian GST Journal, writes: John Bowyer (yesterday, comments) hit the nail on the head in referring to the odiously distortionary sales tax as “a lovely tax”, but I can’t agree with the statement that “the only thing wrong with the GST was the capitulation to silly Meg Lees by not making it all-encompassing”. There are many things wrong with the GST law. Entire divisions are waiting rewrites. The Not For Profits must also be screaming. They spent years lobbying for massive changes only to hear (now gone) Dutton announce those major reforms (no details though!) the day his boss called the election but before the Caretaker Period commenced (interesting!). And forfeited deposits? Don’t get me started. But I digress. The Howard Government at no stage pushed for an “all-encompassing” GST regime. The original Bill they introduced contained a zillion exemptions, the major ones being financial services (GST rate of 0% and no credits), and health and education (GST rate of 0% but yes to credits). During its tortuous passage, the Bill was amended many many times – it was hard to keep up – it was lawmaking on the run. Not good. The Senate hurdle was Harradine. If the Government secured his support, the GST Bill was law. Game over. On 13 May 1999 Labor voted WITH the Government in the Senate to reject one of the Democrat’s proposed amendments on GST and food. It was an amendment intended to compensate small food retailers for the burden of complying with the Democrats other proposed food amendments. It had been a carve-out, and I guess Labor was resigned to a Megless GST. But the very next day (then) Senator Harradine announced in the Senate he would vote against the GST Bills. The irony was staggering. Solely by his stance, the very things he railed against were not only allowed to happen, but to multiply. The Democrats’ food desires were all laid out on the table, so to say, for all to see, including Harradine. They weren’t secret or sudden. The final vote was due in 11 days. Time was running out. Meg was as smug as a bug in a keg. Now we have Federal Court cases on whether things like blackcurrant juice are in or out. Hang on, that sounds familiar… oh yes, sales tax! Some may view the final political agreement as capitulation, but students of regressive taxation would do well to compare the final GST menu with the original shopping list clutched by the Democrats.

Director liability:

Philippa Cooper writes: Re. Director liability (yesterday, comments). Any attempt to simplify the responsibilities of directors of a small public company limited by guarantee would be welcome. As a small charity, the only entity suitable for us is the above model, with absolutely no consideration given to matching the model with the charity. Fit the charity to the model, not the other way around. Our only crime is to try to raise funds for researching a cure for inherited blindness. Our annual battle with the requirements of ASIC reduces us to tears, yet we have to soldier on, volunteers as we are, to meet the requirements of an Act which is completely out of kilter with an entity such as ours.

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